In the Beauty of the Lilies: A Novel, by John Updike

In the Beauty of the Lilies: A Novel, by John Updike

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In the Beauty of the Lilies begins in 1910 and traces God’s relation to four generations of American seekers, beginning with Clarence Wilmot, a clergyman in Paterson, New Jersey. He loses his faith but finds solace at the movies, respite from ‘the bleak facts of life, his life, gutted by God’s withdrawal.’

His son, Teddy, becomes a mailman who retreats from American exceptionalism, religious and otherwise, into a life of studied ordinariness. Teddy has a daughter, Esther, who becomes a movie star, an object of worship, an All-American goddess.

Her neglected son, Clark, is possessed of a native Christian fervour that brings the story full circle: in the late 1980s he joins a Colorado sect called the Temple, a handful of ‘God’s elect’ hastening the day of reckoning.

In following the Wilmots’ collective search for transcendence, John Updike pulls one wandering thread from the tapestry of the American Century and writes perhaps the greatest of his later novels.

“Dazzling . . . a book that forces us to reassess the American Dream and the crucial role that faith (and the longing for faith) have played in shaping the national soul.” - The New York Times

“Stirring and captivating and beautifully written” - The Boston Globe